There are three different basic metro systems in Europe, each with their own method of cheating and risks.
- Buy ticket at employed booth or machine. Insert ticket into kiosk which completely blocks entrance to metro with small doors, once inside can ride indefinitely.
Examples: Rome, Paris, New York City
This style is not exactly discreet to cheat when not many people are around, I wouldn’t advise it at all. During rush hours it can work because the small doors to pass through the kiosk stay open long enough for two people to squeeze through at the same time. Squeezing through with the person ahead of you will get you a nasty look and you might not want to stick around with them, but it will work.
The exit doors are also possible to squeeze through, simply stand at it and as someone leaves keep hold of one of the sliding doors and walk through. This is very obvious though and really better off buying a ticket than doing this, but it’s possible.
- Buy ticket at machine only. Must check ticket at second machine outside entrance or on train. Can ride indefinitely once inside.
Examples: Berlin, Vienna
There is nothing blocking you from entering the metro on these. You can walk right onto the train with no one the wiser if you bought a ticket. The way that these metros are enforced are by conductors/police disguised as civilians. They will get on metros just before the doors close and as it starts moving they will flash a badge — as transport authority or possibly police — asking for everyone to show a ticket.
- Buy ticket at machine only. Must check ticket at second machine outside entrance. Timed rides: can leave metro and go back inside but only under time frame.
Examples: Copenhagen, Munich, Budapest
These metros are enforced just the same as the others. The only difference is that you cannot ride the metro indefinitely inside.
In many cities there are trams as public transport instead of an underground metro. A tram being halfway between a train and a metro above ground and goes through the city by tracks in the streets. Usually the trolleys operate where you check the ticket on a little fist sized box attached to a handrail inside the tram. The trams generally all function the same.
With the ability to be far from the driver as it’s a long car and being able to get on at any part, back or front, it is certainly the safest possible public transport to nick a ride on. I’ve never seen nor heard of a conductor on a trolley but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get caught. I’ve used many trolleys at many different times of day and have never had a problem.
Examples: Strasburg, Zurich, Milan, Paris
In many major and some minor cities there is a train that circles the city as a public transport. I’ve only ever seen conductors on these while in Zurich, but in general rails in cities or intercity are well conducted.
They operate the same as a normal train, ticket bought beforehand in station, shown to conductor when they come by, schedule posted in station etc. My experience with inner city trains is only with Vienna, Zurich and Copenhagen though, so I don’t suggest extrapolating this to other cities. Buy a ticket wherever you are, explore, see how many conductors there are, how people act, etc, find out for yourself.
The most common public transport in towns and minor cities are buses and they have two main types. The way to tell these apart is whether people are only getting on at the front and off at the back (1) or if the bus driver is in their own little cage at the driver’s seat and people get on and off both ends (2).
- Enter the front of the bus and buy a ticket from the driver.
The bus’ front entrance is meant for passengers getting on and the back entrance for those getting off, simply walk on the back entrance and sit as quick and fluid as you can. Issues arise with how observant the bus driver is, and how much they might care.
If they notice and care enough, in my experience, they will just make you pay for a ticket. Just play dumb again, didn’t know to get on the front, didn’t know who to pay etc. The bus driver is the enforcer on these types of buses so there is no other conductors. If you don’t have the money just say you don’t and walk off.
- Buy ticket similar to metro system, from automated machine near stop, enter any door to bus and check ticket inside
Examples: Munich, Lugano, Rome
These buses are as easy to cheat as simply walking on. Honestly, these bus driver’s jobs are to drive, not to worry about tickets and they don’t. The only city I have heard of any enforcement on these buses are in Rome where once a month police get on and ask for tickets.